The Associated Students of UNM Senate on Wednesday passed an emergency resolution supporting the UNM KIVA Club’s campaign to change the University’s official seal, which the group has said contains offensive imagery.
The legislation passed with a 15-5-0 vote, representing the momentum gathered by a campaign — of which the Red Nation is also involved — that has been in motion since the spring semester. UNM Regents will deliberate over the matter on Tuesday.
“These images are racist, and celebrate genocide across our campus,” said ASUNM Sen. Hallie Brown, who authored the legislation. “The symbol represents violence, and that creates an environment that makes many students feel unsafe.”
Brown proposed the resolution along with ASUNM Senator and President Pro Tempore Sarah Moore.
The Division for Equity and Inclusion had five different forums through six months, including outreach, and received 500 responses in favor of changing the University seal. A recent report made by the department recommends changes be made to make the seal “more inclusive.”
Although the current campaign by the KIVA Club and the Red Nation has been in motion for a few months, there has been a consistent fight to change the seal for decades.
“This issue isn’t new, it has been going on since the ‘70s and that is something we all need to understand. It’s a human rights issue,” said Cheyenne Antonio of the Native American Studies Department. “This institution needs to acknowledge the racism that we deal with.”
KIVA Club also created a list of demands, which includes changing the seal.
Other demands on the list call for the reconstruction of a Native Cultural Center, more native faculty at the administration level and a Higher Education Council of Tribal Leaders established at the Board of Regents level.
KIVA Club Treasurer Hope Alvarado said they understand these demands will take time.
“We also understand that it will be difficult for people to understand exactly everything we have done research on. A lot of these demands have been passed and implemented within other institutions that have lower populations of indigenous people,” she said.
Alvarado said UNM has the highest population of native students in the western hemisphere, and for UNM to change the seal would create an atmosphere of success and a safer climate for indigenous students on campus.
Sen. Sade Patterson was one senator in favor of the resolution, saying that although she doesn’t experience discrimination firsthand as many Native Americans have, she was “moved” by testimony at a seal forum she attended last semester.
She said it opened her eyes to something she had never thought of before.
“I know it’s hard for us to understand,” Patterson said, “but if this is making students feel uncomfortable and unsafe and unsupported… I support this resolution (to change it).”
Sen. Ryan Ansloan, however, had concerns about the legislation.
“My concern is that I fear the UNM seal has become a scapegoat for all the other grievances they have,” Ansloan said. “An expensive one.”
It has not been estimated how much it would cost the University if the decision to change the seal is passed. However, Moore said students needn’t worry about that side of the issue.
“They are not going to take the money to change the seal out of student fees, so there is no need for that to be a concern,” she said.
During the portion of Wednesday’s meeting devoted to public comment, Alvarado encouraged ASUNM senators and students to speak on behalf of the campaign in front of the Board of Regents, to show solidarity with the campaign. She said the passing of the resolution does this on a symbolic level.
“We need not only your support,” Alvarado said, “but your leadership.”
Denicia Aragon is a news reporter for the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org on Twitter @deniciaaragon98.